North, South Korea To Hold Rare High-level Talks

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South Korean President Park Geun-Hye
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye

North and South Korea have agreed to hold rare high-level talks Wednesday on a range of “major” issues, before a planned reunion of family members divided by the Korean War.

The meeting involving officials from the South’s Defence Ministry, Unification Ministry and Presidential Office will take place at the border truce village of Panmunjom, unification ministry spokesman Kim Eui-Do told reporters Tuesday.

It would be the first high-level sit-down by the rivals since South Korean President Park Geun-Hye took office a year ago.

According to an official at the unification ministry, the last official high-level talks were held in December 2007.

Although no agenda has been set, there will be “discussions on major inter-Korean issues’’ including the upcoming family reunion, spokesman Kim said.

President Park has always said the door to dialogue with the North was open, while insisting that substantive talks on its nuclear programme can only begin after Pyongyang makes a tangible commitment to abandoning nuclear weapons.

North Korean state media did not immediately report the planned meeting. But the unification ministry said it had come at Pyongyang’s request to discuss overall inter-Korean ties.

An official in the presidential Blue House told AFP the South had agreed as a “reciprocal response” to a series of recent conciliatory gestures by North Korea.

Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said the fact the talks would happen at all was “meaningful” but cautioned against raised expectations.

“It’s premature to say whether this will lead to any breakthrough or policy change,’’ Professor Kim told AFP.

“A clearer answer will come after the meeting, but it will provide an opportunity for both sides to read the minds of their leaders,” he added. [AFP]

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